BJP belittles Priyanka Gandhi at its own peril, attacks on political neophyte betray saffron party's nervousness

The BJP ought to scoff at the appointment of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as All India Congress Committee general secretary in charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh at its own peril. It is all very well to call it an admission of failure on the part of Congress president Rahul Gandhi, dub it a "desperate move" or giggle like schoolgirls and pooh-pooh her presence on the political scene as insignificant, but the BJP's reactions give off a certain fear.

BJP belittles Priyanka Gandhi at its own peril, attacks on political neophyte betray saffron partys nervousness

File image of Priyanka Gandhi. AFP

It is all in the optics. At the very outset, the BJP spokespersons should not have reacted. Sometimes, silence is an effective weapon. The more you talk out of line, the more the risk of propelling exactly what you are denying. For one, Rahul is no longer the "political duffer" he was in 2017. He has a following and is displaying maturity. Second, the despair of Rahul being a generally accepted figurehead pretty much evaporated with three victories in state elections, all of which occurred in what should have been a pretty easy cakewalk for champions of Hindutva in the Hindi heartland. But that didn't happen.

For another, Rahul is not being challenged by some outsider. This is his sister, not some hostile challenger. So, it is all in the family and, if anything, the Congress has pulled out its secret weapon at an appropriate juncture. With the BJP now unable to control the spillover from its shrill agenda and the latest cow slaughter victim in Rohtak causing outrage, the difference in priorities is stark. One is still hovering like a vulture over the Indian home and hearth and spreading fear while the other is marshaling its forces.

Priyanka is an enigma. Her uncanny, almost mesmerising likeness to Indira Gandhi creates a visual affirmation in the masses that she is a person who will provide stability and control. Even the flinty accusations against her husband Robert Vadra tend to fade and be blunted and much as the BJP can hope that his reputation will drag her down, don’t bet on it. It is the imagery that wins and the snide reaction the return of the dynasty might have received even as late as 2017 will now be seen in enough circles as a strategic move to strengthen the family and, through it, the Congress and provide a consolidated front.

Intellectually, it is depressing that one family can make a comeback again and again. But in this case, much of the impetus has been given by the BJP’s inability to bypass the Gandhis and, instead, acknowledge them at every step, thereby adding to their credibility and their political longevity.

Priyanka has always been seen as the mystery woman who eschewed politics for being a private citizen. Even if one were to assume that the reluctant debutante has ridden to the rescue of her brother and mother from the darkness of political oblivion, all it does is indicate she is a power to reckon with. And what's wrong in helping your family if standing by them exerts a positive influence? From the public point of view, her arrival on the scene is a positive.

The BJP would do well to shore itself up and not belittle the wind that she brings to the Congress sails. The more it jeers the appointment, the more it underscores its own nervousness. Besides, attacking this unknown entity who has largely maintained her distance and her dignity from the political muckraking will smack of bad manners if the BJP frontline takes that route. And it will backfire.

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Updated Date: Jan 23, 2019 17:32:59 IST

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